The below-normal temperatures in several areas of the country have affected nearly everyone. But those of us who live in cold-weather climates make adjustments. We go on with our daily lives. After all, we’re used to it. It’s winter, and we’ve been through several of them before.
When it comes to attending school, however, it’s another matter. Many schools have canceled classes due to the cold. Strange. Extremely cold days have been around as long as I can remember, and everyone went to school regardless. I did, and so did my children.
Naturally, no responsible parent would want his or her child subjected to sub-freezing temperatures for any length of time, and I certainly understand why. I never allowed my children to wait outside for a bus in frigid cold either. But a few years ago, parents used a number of options, such as driving them to the bus stop and letting them wait in the car, driving them to school, or having their sitter or a neighbor handle the transportation. If none of those options were available, then, and only then, would I consider letting them stay home.
It’s no longer up to the parents, and many of them seem quite content. “In over eight years as a superintendent, I have never had to close a district due to cold temperatures,” said one school official from a metropolitan Detroit district. Yes, there have been plenty of equally cold days during those eight years. Some even colder. So why close them now? Pressure from parents.
Local districts that kept their schools open on one of the cold days were flooded with angry e-mails from parents complaining that it was too cold for their children to attend school. Many of those districts closed the following day, and the reason seems obvious. Rather than deal with the pressure and potential issues, they just canceled classes.
It’s sad. School officials have more important concerns, such as providing a quality education.
The school closing policies also apply to high schools. Thousands of teenagers are out of school because it’s too cold outside. But it’s certainly not too cold to go to the mall and hang out. If you visit any large shopping mall on a “cold day” when school has been canceled, you are certain to find scores of teens strolling about. And they’ll be parking in some distant spots, where they’ll have to walk through the frigid parking lot, many not even bothering to wear a coat. Yet it’s too cold to go to school.
At one local high school that stayed open, students gathered in a central area to protest, and refused to go to their classes. “They are ridiculous,” said one student’s parent. But she was referring to school officials and their decision to keep the schools open, not the protesting students.
It wasn’t all that long ago when classes were held regardless of temperature. We learned that attending school was a requirement. The only time classes were canceled was due to a malfunction in the heating system or a two-foot snowfall that made roads impassable.
Our parents dressed us for the weather. If temperatures dropped to potentially dangerous levels, we got rides to school from them or neighbors. We were being prepared for the real world that loomed ahead of us. We learned that when we got jobs and had to support our families, the luxury of staying in bed on a cold day wasn’t going to be an option.
Not true nowadays. Apparently we can no longer allow our children to venture outside when it’s colder than normal, or more than three inches of snow has fallen. Not for school, anyway. Trips to the store, fast food restaurant, or movie theater don’t seem to present a problem. Unfortunately, this is what children are learning along the way. You can simply skip the important things in life if the weather isn’t to your liking.
For those schools that closed, all of the missed days will have to be made up later in the year, whether students and parents like it or not. That is, as long as the weather cooperates.